Without a hit through the first three innings and trailing 3-0, the Aggies scored 11 runs over the next nine outs to beat top-seeded Miami 11-7 and force a decisive game 7 p.m. tomorrow.
“I spoke to the players this morning and told them that we were going to be at the field for 10 hours, so make sure you get after it and compete,” Texas A&M head coach Rob Childress said. “It was going to take a heroic effort on everyone’s part to make sure we finished the day off the right way.”
Closer John Stilson, who pitched in the first game against Dartmouth and tallied more than 120 pitches on the day, tossed 3.2 scoreless innings of four-hit ball for his 10th save of the year. He also lowered his ERA to 0.76.
“That was all adrenaline,” Stilson said. “I knew I had to get the job done for us to go to tomorrow and I just did what I do out there and had a good day and made the pitches when I needed to.”
Starter Michael Wacha (9-2) picked up the win for the Aggies (43-20-1) despite surrendering seven runs on 10 hits in 5.1 innings.
That included a three-run shot by Harold Martinez, his 21st of the year, to give the Hurricanes (42-18) a quick 3-0 lead in the first.
Brodie Greene got things going for Texas A&M when he collected its first hit on a stand-up double to left in the fourth. When Joe Patterson grounded out to second to advance him, Matt Juengel produced an RBI single.
Adam Smith followed with a two-run homer, his 10th of the season, to tie the game at 3.
But Miami came right back to take a 5-3 lead with back-to-back blasts from Nathan Melendres and Michael Broad in the sixth and seventh spots of the lineup.
The pair combined to go 6 for 10 with three homers, three RBI and four runs.
Poor fielding doomed the Hurricanes in the fifth when first baseman Scott Lawson dropped a throw from second and a ball hit off starting pitcher David Gutierrez for an infield single.
With runners on first and second cleanup hitter Patterson hit a ball into the gap in right-center to drive in two and tie the game at 5. Juengel doubled to right and collected the third straight hit for the Aggies and gave them their first lead at 6-5.
Texas A&M then broke the game wide open with a five-run sixth on just three hits.
Kenny Jackson led off with a walk, Andrew Collazo was hit by a pitch, Joaquin Hinojosa put down a bunt, Tyler Naquin doubled, Greene singled and Jeungel homered to deep left.
“Early on in the game I was doing a really good job keeping the ball down and working my offspeed for strikes,” said Gutierrez, who dropped to 5-2 on the year. “The fourth inning I left a couple balls up and I just had to make an adjustment and I didn’t.”
Miami had its chances, stranding nine runners, including six over a three-inning span between the fifth and seventh.
“We didn’t get those clutch hits that we usually get in the postseason,” Martinez said.
Motivation shifted for good when Naquin threw out Lawson from right field as he tried to score from second in the bottom of the fifth with the score 6-5 in Texas A&M’s favor.
Lawson, who reached on an infield single and went to second on an error by the shortstop, ran for home on Chris Pelaez’s single through the hole between second and first
“Whenever runners are on in big situations I visualize that part of the game happening and sure enough I saw it before the play happened,” Naquin said. “There was no doubt in my mind that I was going to make that throw.”
The winner of tomorrow’s game will head to Gainesville to face the overall third seed Florida Gators in the NCAA Super Regional.
“Texas A&M’s got a very good club and we didn’t play well enough to win. We could’ve pitched better and played better defense and they outplayed us today,” Miami head coach Jim Morris said. “Number one we need a crowd tomorrow night. This is why we come here, that’s why players play here, that’s why I coach here, that’s why we come to this program is because of fan support. We need a packed house tomorrow night.”